No Longer Flush With Cash, TV News Enters Belt-Tightening Era

As CNN, ABC News and others grapple with an advertising downturn and lower linear viewership, the new mandate is to trim costs and find savings however they can while staffers weather the storm.

The afternoon email hit some inside CNN like a ton of bricks. The cable news channel, now under Warner Bros. Discovery (its second owner in just a few years) was going to face budget cuts and layoffs. “There is widespread concern over the global economic outlook, and we must factor that risk into our long-term planning,” CNN CEO Chris Licht wrote in a late-October memo.

At a network town hall on Nov. 15, Licht confirmed to moderator Alisyn Camerota that layoffs will hit the division in December. Those cuts are part of an industrywide pivot, as media giants prepare for a difficult winter, seeking to reduce costs however they can. And news divisions will not be spared.

At Disney, CEO Bob Chapek sent a memo to division leaders Nov. 11 outlining a hiring freeze, canceling all travel not deemed “essential” and a new “cost structure task force” that will pursue “organizational enhancements.” 

“We do anticipate some staff reductions as part of this review,” Chapek warned, adding that some decisions would be “tough and uncomfortable.”

Disney-owned ABC News, led by Kim Godwin, is not exempt from those orders, as she told staff in a Nov. 14 edit meeting.

“Just a few months ago, Disney’s now ex-CEO [Bob] Iger stated ‘linear TV and satellite is marching toward a great precipice and it will be pushed off.’ With Disney management’s FY 2023 guidance, it appears that that cliff may be closer than any of us thought,” MoffettNathanson’s Michael Nathanson wrote Nov. 9, underscoring the challenges facing the company.

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